The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) has merged with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and will no longer operate as a standalone organization, the group announced last month.
For 30 years, AYPF advocacy has focused on education and workforce issues, youth development and mental health, engaging researchers, professionals in the field and policymakers at all levels. Their work has focused on youth with systems involvement, including foster care and juvenile justice, as well as immigrants, youth with disabilities and those from low-income families.
Founded in 1973, CDF’s advocacy has focused in similar areas as well as eliminating child poverty and gun violence and promoting racial justice. In addition to policy reform advocacy, CDF operates Freedom Schools in Washington, D.C., which offer after-school and summer academic enrichment programming.
With significant overlap between the two organizations’ initiatives, AYPF executive director Dr. Stephanie McGencey called the merger “a family joining together.”
“Too often our work in youth policy has been siloed,” McGencey said in a press release. “This exciting new home for the work means AYPF, powered by CDF, will have the ability to focus on the full scope of youth issues, from birth to young adulthood.”
Recent tax filings suggest that AYPF has incurred some tough financial times. Expenses exceeded revenue at AYPF for three of the fiscal years between 2020 and 2022, and the organization’s net assets have dropped from $3.7 million in 2016 (right around the time the forum sold its D.C. building) to just south of $800,000 in 2022.
Betsy Brand, who led AYPF for 24 years before retiring in 2020, lamented what she sees as a movement away from the type of nonpartisan work the forum did.
“Building bridges across the aisle, it’s not as possible these days,” Brand told Youth Services Insider. “The world has changed a lot, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault.”
CDF, on the other hand, has seen some major cash infusions. Like AYPF, the organization sold its longtime D.C. headquarters to a hotel group for $24 million in 2018, and received a $20 million grant from MacKenzie Scott in 2021.
Leaders from the organization said the merger will allow them to work toward their common mission at a faster and more efficient pace than either organization could have accomplished alone.
The forum’s youth engagement strategy and Youth Council, which lends lived experience to its policy recommendations and advocacy, will continue at Children’s Defense Fund. CDF President and CEO the Rev. Starsky Wilson said the organization plans to build upon AYPF’s youth development partnerships with Opportunity Youth Forum, the National Alliance of Youth and Young Adult Advocates and others.
“We’re excited to incorporate AYPF’s considerable resources with our existing programs to build community, so all young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy,” Wilson said.
Brand said the forum’s work was focused on ensuring youth had a “lifelong trajectory” of connectedness. “Building that pipeline is great for CDF.”
John Kelly contributed to this story.